Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Ready Player One

Ready Player One
by Ernest Cline
Crown, 2011. 372 pgs. Science Fiction

What a gas! Ready Player One is so much fun to read you'll wish you hadn't finished it so you could read it for the first time. As our story begins it is 2044 and the world has pretty much oozed down the drain. Fossil fuels are almost completely exhausted and the poor live in trailer parks where the units are stacked fifteen high. Most of the populace maintains sanity by avoiding "real life" and living virtually, in the OASIS universe, where one just has to log on to be anything or anyone, anywhere. Wade Watts, through his avatar Parzival, spends most every hour he is not in his online school trying to solve the riddle left by OASIS' creator when he died. Somewhere in his multiverse James Halliday has hidden three keys that open three gates. Whoever makes his or her way through the third gate first inherits Halliday's billions. After five years with no progress, many "gunters" have given up on the quest but Parzival's careful study of 80s pop culture finally pays off and he finds the Copper Key and goes through the first gate. A friend and an admired blogger follow him, but as the leaders' names are posted on the scoreboard, the Dark Empire of Innovative Online Industries lurches into action and soon real people in the real world are dying and Wade and his friends are on the run in and out of OASIS.

Some gaming chops and a working knowledge of 80s music, movies, and arcade games is helpful but not necessary in enjoying this crackerjack of a futuristic adventure with enough thought-provoking themes to make it not just fluff.



ACS said...

I just finished listening to this book and I added the label "Audio Pick" because listening to the book on a long car ride was a great experience.

The audiobook was narrated by Wil Wheaton, which will be a familiar name for those in a variety of geekdoms. Wheaton is well known for playing Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and a recurring role on The Big Bang Theory. He has done a variety of voice work for cartoons, video games, anime, and audiobooks, and I couldn't think of a better person to narrate this audiobook. I admit to giggling every time there was a reference in the book to Star Trek or Wil Wheaton himself.

I loved listening to this book, and if you're too busy to read it, I highly suggest listening to it. Your inner geek will thank you.

Linea Kemsley said...

This book was absolutely a blast to read. Like ACS, I listened to the audiobook and found Wil Wheaton a fantastic narrator. The only reproach I have was that his voicing of Shoto, a minor character, was a bit inconsistent. Other than that I loved everything.

I'm young enough that I have no memories of the 80s, so one of the best parts of the book was getting introduced to geek culture from that era. When part of the plot would hinge on a scene from Blade Runner or War Games, I would go and watch those movies. When Parzival was challenged by a classic video game, I'd look it up online and give it a whirl myself. It made for a super interactive (if long) read that was 100% awesome. If you know 80s nerd culture, you will enjoy all the references immensely. If you don't, you'll love being introduced to a golden age of the past. Either way, I highly recommend this book. I mean, we all liked Stranger Things for the same reasons, right?


MW said...

If anyone is worried about this book just being indulgent nostalgia, fear not! While knowledge of 80s pop/gaming culture will help you appreciate the references, this book is a fantastic tale packed with adventure, action, and themes that will really get you thinking.

I followed the advice of ACS (comment above) and listened to the audiobook at her recommendation. It is a great one to listen too, the performance is outstanding and good listening. With holiday travel coming up, it'll be a great way to make security lines or busy highways a lot more fun!